Password Sharing may be Illegal for Streaming Services – UK Government Declares

UK Government declares Password Sharing Illegal for Streaming Services

Password sharing may break copyright law, claims the UK Intellectual Property Office 

Yesterday, the UK’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO) stated that password sharing on streaming services was a practice that broke copyright law, and while the IPO has since backtracked on its statements, removing mentions of password sharing from their website, it is clear what the IPO’s position on this matter is. 

In the past, streaming services have supported password sharing as a practice, as it helped to enable the rapid growth of early streaming services. Now that subscriber growth for companies like Netflix has come to a halt, services are now taking a more hard-line approach against password sharing, with the practice being against the terms of service for most streaming platforms. Even so, not many platforms have done anything more to prevent password sharing.

Below is what the IPO stated on their website yesterday regarding password sharing and other forms of piracy;

    Piracy is a major issue for the entertainment and creative industries. Pasting internet images into your social media, password sharing on streaming services and accessing the latest films, tv series or live sports events through kodi boxes, fire sticks or Apps without paying a subscription all break copyright law. Not only are you breaking the law but stopping someone earning a living from their hard work.

Since the release of this statement, the IPO has edited their guidance on their website to remove references to password sharing. However, they have not retracted their statements to the media regarding their stance on the matter. 

The IPO has also edited their “Pasting internet images into your social media” statement to say “Pasting internet images into your social media without permission”.

UK Government declares Password Sharing Illegal for Streaming Services

(Remember this?)

Below is a statement that the Intellectual Property Office made to the BBC, supporting their prior comments.  

    There are a range of provisions in criminal and civil law which may be applicable in the case of password sharing where the intent is to allow a user to access copyright-protected works without payment,”

“These provisions may include breach of contractual terms, fraud or secondary copyright infringement, depending on the circumstances.

“Where these provisions are provided in civil law, it would be up to the service provider to take action through the courts if required.

While the IPO’s statements to the BBC make it clear that streaming services can use civil courts against password sharers, it is unlikely that any streaming service would take this action. For starters, doing so would be a PR disaster once the press gets wind of any of these court actions. 

Additionally, the BBC contacted the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to comment on potential prosecutions for password sharing. The CPO stated that cases would need to be investigated on a “case-by-case basis”, and that cases would need to be “referred to the CPS by an investigator for a charging decision”. In other words, prosecutions’ would require a police investigation, and there is little reason to believe that the Police are interested in investigating such a minor crime. 

You can join the discussion on the UK’s Intellectual Property Office’s stance on password sharing on the OC3D Forums.